Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Day 261 of self-isolation - Thoroughly modern

Thoroughly modern

We've entered the 21st century. We now have 4K TV, and I just signed up to Netflix. It costs £11.99 for 4k quality. And I immediately got a text from the card company, telling me of a possible fraudulent charge from Love Films. And if we approved it, we should text them Y and submit the charge again.

So we phoned the card company, and it turned out that Netflix has double-billed. So everything was fine, and it's just as well that we didn't submit the charge again.

4k quality is really looking nice. Plus I can watch Netflix on my computer, or on the TV, or an iPad or iPhone.

I'm impressed with the choice on Netflix, especially at that price. Sky is costing us £64 per month, and I suspect we'll be using Netflix more.


Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Day 260 of self-isolation - Christmas has been ordered

Christmas has been ordered

Online. From Amazon. Amazon is doing extremely well this year.

Clothes for Ladysolly.

Electronics for daughters.

Books for me.

I accidentally ordered a Kindle book, but it was easy to unorder it. I just told them I'd ordered the wrong thing (which is true, I'd meant to order the paper version).

I greatly prefer paper books. The user interface is one I'm very used to, and the fact that I can't change the font, is only a minor irritation. Maybe if my eyes deteriorate I'll prefer the Kindle.

I do actually have a Kindle, which I inherited from someone, and I have a bunch of e-books on it that I downloaded free from the Gutenburg project. But I don't actually use it.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Day 259 of self-isolation - A fraud

A fraud

Someone I know has been getting emails from Amazon for quite a while. You and I know that they weren't actually from Amazon. It's just as easy to forge the from-address on an email as it is on a paper letter.

The email was asking to update the card details, and gave a link to click on.

That link wasn't Amazon, of course, but it was made to look like Amazon, which is very easy - you just copy their page.

And if you give the card details, that goes to the fraudster. Who then bought pizza, in large amounts.

Not a huge financial disaster, but bad enough.

In this blog, I've often shown spam which looks very realistic. And even one that looked fake, but turned out to have genuinely come from the VAT authorities in Hungary. So what can you do?

One simple rule. If you feel the need to go to a web site, don't do it by clicking on the link. Type the name (, or, or whatever) into your browser URL bar. Remember that the from-address in an email is as easy to forge as the from-address in a paper letter.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Day 258 of self-isolation - An assortment of good news.

An assortment of good news.

In the UK, the R number is down to  between 0.9 and 1.0, and we can see that by the fact that new cases has fallen from a peak of 25000 to 16000 and falling.

Also, we're expecting the vaccinations to start in a two weeks or so.

And in the USA, the FDA is expected to approve a vaccine on December 10th, with 6.4 million doses to be rolled out the next day.

There's more good news. More than 2.5 million vulnerable people in England will be offered free Vitamin D supplements this winter. I'm already taking 2000 IU per day, as a precaution. But in the UK, especially in winter, many people are vitamin D deficient (especially if you have dark skin, because dark skin makes D more slowly). And if you've been locked down and indoors, you've got even less vitamin D. The recommended dose is 400IU (10 micrograms) per day.

It's about time this was made official - there is ample evidence that many people are D deficient, and we know that D is part of the immune response. And the pills are really cheap, and widely available.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Day 257 of self-isolation - Fugging


A small village in Austria is changing it's name. They got fed up with being the target of risque jokes, tired of having their village sign stolen and they had enough of being laughed at for their name.

The town council of Scunthorpe has not commented on this.


Friday, 27 November 2020

Day 256 of self-isolation - Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

In America, the 26th was Thanksgiving, a time when American families traditionally get together indoors in large numbers to eat turkey, drink, and be happy together. An excellent tradition. But not appropriate in 2020.

Travel is heaviest at Thanksgiving. Today, travel was 90% as heavy as last year. People are gathering from all parts of America to meet, eat, hug and swap viruses.  It's like one big pox party, happening at a time when the number of new infections per day in America is higher than ever. 

There's nothing to be done about that. Americans are like lemmings; they follow the leader blindly off a cliff, and no-one can understand why.

Christmas is coming. In America, I'm guessing they'll gather again, egged on by Donald Trump, ignoring the warnings of the CDC and the doctors. Christmas will be four weeks after Thanksgiving, it will be like a wave starting from the high point left by the Thanksgiving wave. America has surrendered to the virus, and not even the vaccine will save them, because most of them will refuse to take it.

But I had hoped that the British fighting spirit was undimmed. We're in the second wave now, and we did a one month lockdown, which has had a good effect. The number of cases has peaked, it seems, and although death numbers will continue to be horrible for the next few weeks, at least the number of new cases each day has stopped rising.

And then our oven-ready government announced that from 23 to 27 December, restrictions will be eased for Christmas.

First, let's think for a moment about the unfairness of this. A Christian festival has been given the go-ahead, but the Hindu, Islamic or Jewish festivals got no similar easement.

Next, let's think about the effect of this. Has our world-beating government negotiated a Christmas Truce with the virus? Will we be singing Christmas carols in chorus with the virus? Will there be a friendly game of football, NHS vs Covid?

I don't think the virus will be taking Christmas off. I think the virus will enjoy Christmas; the close gathering of families, all unmasked (because you can't mask while you're eating). The gatherings of worshippers in stuffy churches. The shopping frenzy. If a virus could devise a way to infect lots of people, it would invent Christmas.

And yet, and yet. We've been running this gruelling marathon since March, and we're in sight of victory. We have three powerful vaccines about to be rolled out, we can see the finishing line. Now is not a time to lie down and let the virus roll over us.

My Christmas will be a roast turkey dinner, eaten in company with a large family gathering - over Zoom. This Christmas will be virtual. 

Next Christmas will be EPIC

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Day 255 of self-isolation - Who to vaccinate first?

Who to vaccinate first?

Vaccination will start in December, and, obviously, not everyone can be vaccinated at once. I'm very optimistic about how fast this can happen. As an example, I look at my own small town, Little Chalfont, population 6858.

So who will be able to do vaccinations? There is one doctor's surgery there, and one pharmacy. In addition, there is an optician and a hearing specialist. If each of those are able to offer one nurse to do vaccinations (I had a flu jab recently, and it really isn't difficult to do), and if it takes two minutes per jab (more like half a minute), and they work a 7 hour day, then that's 4*7*30 per day = 840 per day. So that's 8 days. 

Obviously, that's just one small town, but it does give a flavour of the size of the vaccination task, and that's why I think it doesn't look as immense as some people are saying.

But I'd like to think about the order in which people are offered vaccination. The current plan is to first vaccinate healthcare workers and people who work or live in care homes. That makes sense to me; the care homes have been decimated by Covid (decimated means one in ten are killed) and the NHS have been the front-line heroes who are exposed to the virus, but work hard nevertheless.

But after that? Government plans currently are to vaccinate age 80+, then 70+, and so on down the age cohorts. That makes sense because age is a major risk factor for Covid. But another major risk factor is skin tone. The darker your skin tone, the higher the risk.

This might be for socio-economic factors, or it might be vitamin D related. The US CDC said that hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people were both about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people. 

So, whatever the reason, skin tone is a big risk factor. So shouldn't this be taken into account when deciding the priorities? 

And there are other known risk factors - asthma, diabetes, compromised immune system.

So then we get into a complex algorithm, which will be difficult for ordinary people to understand (and we all remember the unpopular algorithm for A level results).  And how to you measure skin tone, and whether someone has asthma, and to what degree?

The age-based system has the virtue of simplicity. It's easy to understand, and easy to apply. The NHS already has my age on record, so when I'm called, I shall answer. 

Soon, I hope.